Saint John, New Brunswick

   Among other cheerful sobriquets, such as "The Loyalist City," and "The Greatest Little City In The East," Saint John, New Brunswick, also bills itself as "Canada's Most Irish City."

    While other jurisdictions might argue about the demographics, there is no disputing the fact that Irish presence, participation and involvement reach far back into this seaport city's history.

    There is an authentic saying about Saint John: The French discovered it. (Samuel de Champlain was the first European to chart the land occupied by the Micmacs and the Maliseets. He named the river and its harbour St. John, on the feast day of St. John the Baptist in 1604.)

    The Loyalists founded it. (Remaining loyal to the Crown and fleeing the American Revolution in 1783, they took up land grants here and two years later in 1785, chartered Saint John as Canada's first incorporated city.)

Early Irish Presbyterian Church    The Irish built it. (There is evidence of a pre-Loyalist Irish presence here, and some Irish came with the Loyalists. Thomas Carleton, the first governor of New Brunswick, was of Irish descent. When the province was being named, after the partition of Nova Scotia in 1784, William Knox, also of Irish descent, proposed that it be called "New Ireland."

    But it was in the great influx of immigrants from Ireland following the end of Europe's Napoleonic Wars, that the Irish became a predominant element of tradesmen, farmers, labourers and builders.)

St. Patrick's Society Pitcher    THE FRIENDLY SONS OF ERIN, organized in the 1830's combined both Catholic and Protestant members and took partisan political stands. It has been defunct for many years.
    THE IRISH FRIENDLY SOCIETY, also now defunct, was established in Saint John in the 1850's, as an alternative for Irish Catholics in the city.
    THE ANCIENT ORDER OF HIBERNIANS originated in Ireland, became popular in the United States and was established in New Brunswick in 1885. An Irish Catholic society, its goals were "to promote friendship, unity and Christian charity" among its members. The order has been disbanded locally for many years.

Famine 150

    The Committee to Commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the great Irish Famine is an all-volunteer Saint John group whose mandate extends from 1995 to 1997, when it will disband. It has prepared this information brochure as well as a number of events and activities designed to commemorate the tragedy of the Famine and its ultimate effects on Saint John and other areas where Famine refugees fled.

    "The frail Famine voices now reach us across an aching void. We need to amplify that acoustic; in hewing them attentively we might reclaim our Famine ghosts from their enforced silence and invisibility. In doing so, we can rescue them from the enormous condescension of posterity, paying them the respect which their lonely deaths so signally lacked. That very gesture of reconnection may alleviate a cultural loneliness we do not even know we have and liberate us into a fuller and more honest sense of ourselves, showing us how we got to be where we are, even as we leave it behind."

Kevin Whelan, Burns Library Scholarship
in Irish Studies (1996) Boston College.

Famine 150 Executive Committee

    From left to right: Ray Butler, Shirley Dysart; Fred Hazel; Helena Hook Paddy Addison; Alma Hazel; Donna Blanchard, Secretary, Dr. Dan Britt, Vice-Chair, Agnes Addison; Jack Stevens, Chair, Colleen Maloney, Treasurer